Co.Design has this article up with “master mixologist” Gabriella Mlynarczyk, a bartender at Ink, up. It’s a good read, so you should, but here are our tl;dr notes:
1. Stay true to a formula: The ratio for developing a drink is 2:1:1 - 2 ounces liquor, 1 ounce tart, one ounce sweet.
2. Choose a base note that will complement your liquor. (In her case, a variation on corn: popcorn & unaged white corn whiskey)
3. Whiskey’s more diverse than, say, vodka.
4. Add bitters. “Technically, in the classic cocktail world, a cocktail is not a cocktail unless it contains bitters.”
5. Or add complexity through rinsing the glass — a la the absinthe in a Sazerac, or with something like rosewater.
6. Five ingredients is probably a good max.
7. “Attentuate potency.” What the hell does that mean? Water it down. Dilute the drink down with infused soda water, or champagne (bonus absurdity points for calling it “effervescents.”)
8. “Attentuate mouthfeel.” And what the hell does that mean? Make it interesting. Alter the texture with egg white, or gomme syrup.
9. Measure. Don’t be insulted when your bartender is pouring your ingredients into jiggers; it’s to your benefit. “Cocktail making is very much like baking in that you need to measure every little ingredient or your balance is going to get completely thrown off.”
10. Always remember: stir spirits, shake juices.
11. The massive ice cubes are for more than aesthetics: they melt slower, watering down your drink less.
12. Try mezcal. It’s worthwhile.